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No cover-up in Tabung Haji land deal, Najib’s pledge to Umno division leaders

KUALA LUMPUR (May 9): Datuk Seri Najib Razak (pictured) told Umno leaders that he needed time to explain the land deal controversy involving Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and pledged not to protect those found to have been involved in any wrongdoing, said an Umno division deputy head who attended a closed door meeting with their president yesterday.

“He promised to take action if there is any wrongdoing. He will never protect (those involved)," said Serdang Umno deputy head, Major (Rtd) Abdul Rahim Mohd Amin, who was among 156 division deputy chiefs who attended the meeting, held at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Pressure has been mounting on Najib with many Umno leaders voicing their dissatisfaction after it was revealed two days ago that TH had purchased land from 1MDB's Tun Razak Exchange project for RM188.5 million, which it claimed was a "discounted" price.

Rahim said that during the hour-long meeting, Najib also appealed for Umno leaders' confidence in explaining several issues plaguing his administration.

He said the meeting was part of Najib's efforts to mobilise support from Umno leaders.

"We do support the party president. He has more or less given an explanation on 1MDB, which is now being talked about within and outside Umno," added Rahim.

"We feel the issues need to be answered, and he asked for some time to give a clearer explanation."

It is understood Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan also attended the meeting.

The revelation on the Tabung Haji's land purchase from 1MDB comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding the state strategic investor, which has racked up debts of RM42 billion.

Leaders from both sides of the political divide have demanded answers over the scandal.

Deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters yesterday that he found it difficult to explain it during the recently-concluded Permatang Pauh by-election campaign.

"I don't even know what to say.

"The rakyat wants to know, not just Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The rakyat wants to know why no one has been charged, why the 1MDB board has not been sacked, and about the position of the CEO and the prime minister as adviser," said Muhyiddin, referring to the former prime minister, who has been one the strongest critics of the Najib administration.

Rahim said Najib also spoke about the goods and services tax (GST) at the meeting.

“He expected it (GST's impact) to be felt this year, maybe next year we can see its fruits.

“Most deputy division heads held the view that the GST was still in the transition stage. As long as it is in the transition stage, it will be felt by the people," he added.

Rahim said although many present yesterday expressed worry about recent issues, their support for Umno remained strong.

He said the public would only appreciate the GST if there is effective implementation as well as cooperation from the authorities.

“Most of us deputy division heads felt the government need funds to administer the country and pay its civil servants. The civil service is not small.

“We think there has not been proper handling of the prevailing issues. The issue is about management but this has not been managed. The government machinery is there, but the civil servants cannot be utilised.

“Like GST, they too can't explain it. The GST idea should have come from the civil servants," said Rahim.

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